5 Challenges of Mental Health Care Today

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counselor with clientAlmost 20 percent of adults in the U.S. face a mental health problem within a given year, and about one in 25 adults suffers from a serious mental condition that impacts quality of life. Clearly, mental health care should be a prominent part of the health care system in the U.S., but this idea isn’t necessarily the case. Consider the following five challenges that mental health counselors face today.

1. A Lack of Support

An article from Psychology Today observes, “Mental health professionals — particularly psychologists — do a poor job of monitoring their own mental health problems and those of their colleagues.” Psychologists, psychiatrists, and counselors may face the same issues as the general population, such as depression, marital disharmony, and substance abuse.

Despite these problems, mental health professionals may not receive needed treatment either because of stigma or a lack of access to help.

2. President Barack Obama’s Health Care Law

Laws surrounding health care contain provisions for mental health treatments. However, the laws have much room for improvement.

  • Many people are not aware that their insurance policy covers mental health treatments. In 2014, one poll found that 40 percent of Californians did not understand that their health insurance plans offer mental health care.
  • Some people fall into a coverage gap where treatment is not available to them.
  • Policymakers struggle to define what is an adequate level of mental health treatment.

3. A Lack of Funding

The federal government is making efforts to offer funds for mental health care. In early 2014, an appropriations bill made the way for $115 million to go toward mental health initiatives.

However, in some parts of the country, available mental health resources are still severely lacking. U.S. News & World Report states, “According to data from the Department of Health and Human Services, 55 percent of U.S. counties, all of which are rural, do not have a practicing psychiatrist, psychologists, or social workers.”

4. No Minimum Standards

For non-drug therapies, a lack of minimum standards creates difficulty when determining whether treatments are both safe and effective. Further, some patients with mental disorders may pass through different systems, such as juvenile justice and other structures that offer mental health services. These groups also do not always coordinate with each other to give the best care possible.

The mental health industry needs well-trained clinical mental health counselors who can educate their co-workers and strive to create guidelines for professionals across the industry.

5. Other Challenges

Mental Health America reports on issues that affect the mental health industry. Some of those issues include the following:

  • Fostering cultural competence, as Asians, African-Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) people may have various mental health needs that relate to their backgrounds.
  • Making sure patients have access to needed medications.
  • Dealing with policy changes on federal, state, and local levels.
  • Advocating integrated care.
  • Preventing mental illnesses.

The health care system in the U.S. is a far stretch from perfect, and some of the toughest challenges belong to the mental health industry. However, with the continued efforts of mental health professionals and policymakers, improvement is possible.

Recommended Reading

The Difference Between Feelings and Emotions
How to Improve Mental Health on a Daily Basis
What Is Clinical Mental Health Counseling, and Why Is It Important?


Mental Health America, Mental Health Policy
Time, America’s Failing Mental Health System: Families Struggle to Find Quality Care
The White House, New Funding to Increase Access to Mental Health Services and New Protections Under the Health Care Law 
U.S. News, Under Obamacare, Mental Health Lacking
Psychology Today, Why Shrinks Have Problems
National Alliance on Mental Illness, Mental Health By the Numbers